heart. soul. fail.

22 01 2014

I’m gonna put my heart and soul into it
and
teenagers with fewer A-Cs are more likely to self-harm 

I was reflecting on the connection between these two statements. The first is the sort of meaningless nonsense parroted out on TV by contestants on shows from baking to dancing, skating to singing, in those twee VT clips before they do their thing. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with putting your heart and soul into something. But I believe that one of the effects of the emotional manipulation of TV is that young people believe you can literally do anything if you put your heart and soul into it. 

What tipped the balance for me was when I heard a contestant say it on The Taste, which I wasn’t even watching. What she meant was, I’m going to use a combination of the skills I have spent years learning and honing, and in a high-pressure situation I will do my best to recreate something that tastes really nice to these three people on TV who have a sensationalist script to follow. Heart and soul? How many times have we seen X-Factor contestants put their heart and soul into singing, when really they should have paid a few quid for singing lessons. Or just used their ears. 

On TV, it’s amusing. But in real life, it is not. I remember a young person who was convinced they were going to the Brit School when they left school. A hopelessly unrealistic aim as they weren’t studying music or drama, learning an instrument, or singing other than to the radio. But they truly believed they were good enough. Why? Because they’d seen people on the X-Factor. They were completely unaware of the hard work that the vast majority of people put in.

When our culture promises so many short-cuts, and identifies ‘success’ and ‘achievement’ as being solely linked to grades, fame and money, it is not surprising that so many young people feel they’ve failed and come back to earth with a bang. Nothing matches what they’ve seen on TV. Everything else is just living half-life. Which brings us to the second sentence. 

Here’s a quote from the novel Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn (p80-1):

Our society was utterly, ruinously derivative… We were the first human beings who would never see anything for the first time. We stare at the wonders of the world, dull-eyed, underwhelmed. Mona Lisa, the Pyramids, the Empire State Building. Jungle animals on attack, ancient icebergs collapsing, volcanoes erupting. I can’t recall a single thing I have seen firsthand that I didn’t immediately reference to a movie or a TV show… I literally seen it all, and the worst thing, the thing that  makes me want to blow my brains out, is: The second-hand experience is always better. The image is crisper, the view is keener, the camera angle and the soundtrack manipulate my emotions in a way reality can’t anymore.

We must be real with our young people. We mustn’t over-promise to them, and we mustn’t let them believe the hype. Life is about far more than the emotional push of heart and soul. Feeling it and believing it are very convincing in the moment but as hollow as a grave. Life is about hard knocks, beautiful highs and a whole lot of the mundane, and true friends are those who stand with you through all of them.

Jesus makes us realistic. Jesus commends hard work alongside grace. And most of all, service. It is our folly if we allow this same culture of heart.soul.fail to filter in to our worship, to our churches, to our ministry; if our young people aspire to be like the image we portray of ourselves, and not the real people we are underneath, we have failed. If our young people need an emotional high to believe God is present, we have failed.

I’m all for heart and soul, but the heart and soul of discipleship is walking in the dust of our teacher, disciplining our lives around the broken and the hurting, and the hard work of personal change as we feel – truly feel – real life with our creator. There’s no shortcut to that.

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6 responses

22 01 2014
Sharon Brooks

The level of our awareness determines the size of the box we live in. Within a clearer awareness, there is a knowingness of something much broader than was ever fathomed before, however, it also leaves one knowing… there’s still so much more.
Seeking a way to live in a box larger than is within our propensity, by whatever means is easiest or available, doesn’t necessarily bring the results you thought you’d receive. For it also brings with it a false sense of spaciousness, and a continual dependency on something outside of you / someone other than you.
Throughout history and to this day, so many attempt to use go betweens as a way of communicating with that which needs no go betweens. If they could only realize, the level of their consciousness is the very reason they do use other means except the direct one. And the results they get, often times leave them feeling less than satisfied… unfulfilled.
When we seek outside, what is within, this reveals the body and its senses are leading the way. The mere fact we’re attempting to lasso a higher level of knowledge through our vehicle of lower awareness, speaks for itself about the manner in which we go about it. This very limited way of thinking is just one more form of bondage, holding you back from real freedom.
The work has to start in our own heart, and there are no short cuts, to see what can only be seen from there.

22 01 2014
fireflyby

I can’t commend this post enough. You are absolutely spot on.
And… you quote ‘Gone Girl’! A bonus!

22 01 2014
Jess

I want my shoes covered I the dust of the rabbi I follow, but to do that I must lay down my self. In laying down myself I gain His heart and soul, and begin a journey of trAnsforming challenge. Somehow have we stopped saying that?

23 01 2014
c2drl

If I may ay so I think comments like this reflect post enlightenment thought and use only the rational part of our brains. Rationality is only a part of our existance,our spirit, emotions and love are an equal part.

I am not sure it is true in silly ‘faux’ competitions we see on popular TV, but in real life the power of the human spirit, particularly when in harness with the spirit of God, can and does achieve incredible things that are beyond rational understanding.

It has certainly been true in my life and I know it has been in others too. Of course it isn’t there ‘on demand’ and some of what is needed is the willingnesss to have a go, fail, pick yourself up and win next time. Lets encourage the young, and those of us who are (much) older to dream the impossible dream and reach the unreachable goal. Now that’s a better song!!

23 01 2014
Hannah Warwick

I totally agree, after having a few years of children/youth work under my belt now, I’ve seen that the aspirations of children seem to have changed. There seems to be the idea that you don’t need to work hard in order to get somewhere in life, if in doubt have a child or apply to be on Big Brother and become famous. The ‘I can’t be bothered’ generation (of which I know I’m part of) just seems to have the idea that it’s what you do after school that counts (after all, Alan Sugar came out of school with barely any qualifications, Jamie Oliver barely got an A level) and that if you dream big you can make it. And in contrast some people of X Factor have been in training for yrs (Leona Lewis went to the Brit School) and Lee Mead was already an understudy in the Phantom of the Opera when entering the Joseph musical talent contest. No one wants to shatter a child’s dreams, and that’s not what we should do, but at some point in these children’s life people need to point out that if you’re 16 and not in a football team then maybe you need to think of other options than being a professional footballer. Thought-provoking blog, and what I’m going to do about it will be decided after a well-needed ponder.

24 01 2014
dorothy726

speaking a a music teacher…. yes, yes, yes!!!

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